Author Topic: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?  (Read 10337 times)

atromic

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Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« on: November 03, 2014, 08:31:37 PM »
I work in the environmental field managing projects and am currently dealing with some anxiety over the possibility of spending the rest of my professional career sitting in front of a computer screen. I want to work with my hands, have a professional network that extends into the real estate/construction sector, and don't mind busting ass and getting dirty.

Looked into a couple union sponsored apprenticeship programs for plumbing and electricians and realized that I can match my current pay in about a year depending on the program. 5 years would get me a license and I'm positive that there is no way I would be making what licensed tradesman make in that amount of time if I stuck with my current company.

Anyone here successfully drop the white collar lifestyle for a dirty and profitable career? Worst idea I've ever had or the best?

iris lily

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2014, 08:50:16 PM »
DH has been in and out of white collar/tech jobs (in food manufacturing and lab work.) He's got a Master's degree in horticulture + 30 hours.

For the past 12+ years he's had his own business doing light construction and handyman work. These are all skills that he taught himself. He went into this business when our many friends in this neighborhood begged him to do it, they wanted to hire him. We live in a neighborhood of Victorian houses greatly in need of work. During the housing boom he was incredibly busy, and even now after things slowed down (and many men doing the same work are long out of business) he's still keeps busy 40 hours/week. He's very happy doing this and will retire at this job.

Before that, he worked for a tree and lawn company as a tree health care technician, which is mostly blue-collar I guess. Most of those guys didn't have a B.S. degree but they had at least 2 years of formal education.

Before that he was a lab tech, and then a quality control supervisor on a food manufacturing line.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2014, 08:51:58 PM by iris lily »

Goldielocks

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2014, 12:32:53 AM »
Why can't you step out of the office, and take on field environmental work?   I was just talking to a colleague and he mentioned that this year he took on a 3 month assignment to get his boots dirty, as he has been all office work for the past 2 years as a manager.  (He was conducting a residents visual impact assessment for a potential pipeline.  Other baseline assessments such as lizard, bird and fish counts are very common, and it is a quickly growing field...)

He is thinking of stepping down from management, to field work again, and the overtime pay in summers will make up mostly for the pay rate reduction.   If your company does not conduct hands-on field work, check out competitors that do.  Lots more money and regular pay with benefits, versus trades contracting for yourself.

Peony

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2014, 03:15:38 AM »
It was not a career change but just to maybe reassure you that you aren't totally alone in your thinking, my ex-husband is an Ivy-educated plumber. His family pushed him toward architecture because he had artistic tendencies but he just never, ever, ever wanted to work in an office. To his parents' dismay he moved to NYC after college and apprenticed to a plumber. He lives frugally in an exurban area and has a happy life, I would say -- doing plumbing and other physical work for money as needed, maple syruping, fixing up and selling old wood stoves, doing stonework, etc. He has never maximized his earning potential as a plumber/small business owner (he's a true "scanner," really cannot stand to do the same thing day after day) but if he did he would do very well. People REALLY love an honest, thoughtful, aesthetically aware plumber.

dude

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2014, 05:38:19 AM »
I haven't (though I have plans to go from being a lawyer to being a climbing guide), but I had some HVAC guys over my house not long ago, really friendly, older guys.  Got to talking about their job with them -- they both LOVED their job and said they had no plans to retire, but rather planned to work until they dropped dead.  Pretty cool.  Wish we all could find our calling in that way.

Roland of Gilead

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2014, 07:11:56 AM »
It would depend on the trade and the work.

If it was something I was really interested in, like operating a excavator at a mom and pop gold mine, then yes.

If it was cleaning out septic tanks, then no thanks.

Shortbus

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2014, 07:25:34 AM »
Got my BA in Management Information Systems and had the misfortune (or good fortune in hindsight) to graduate right when the IT market was tanking. After a series of layoffs I got into project management/coordination in the family construction business. After that industry tanked I decided I hated office work so I became a professional brewer. Can't imagine myself doing anything else now!

BreakingtheCycle

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2014, 08:51:49 AM »
I recommend reading Radical Homemakers for inspiration!  Before the industrial revolution, men and women were producers with skilled trades.  Then the men went to work in factories to make money and women became consumers spending time shopping instead of sewing, etc.  I tried to convince my husband to take up a trade after reading the book (just as a hobby, like home brewing) and he just laughed at me!

Cassie

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2014, 11:57:13 AM »
My 2nd hubby had a Master's degree in Math but never wanted to work in an office. He made a great living working as a tool & dye maker until he retired.  He had to do a 4 years apprenticeship as well as take some additional classes. He loved the work & made more $ then he would have. Follow your dreams!

Gone Fishing

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2014, 03:44:33 PM »
I am very hands on, I weld, split wood, work on engines, run a chainsaw, pitch fork and shovel.  I came out of college knowing I didn't want to sit behind a desk all day.  Knowing this, my first job out was with a utility company. Between not getting paid for hours I worked, the dangerous working conditions and my not so stellar co-workers, I quit within 60 days, sucked it up and got the desk job.  While full of aggrevations, I at least know I am going to get my paycheck and I will not be killed because we are rushing and skipping over safety procedures.  In 8 months or so, I will be able to do any hands on work I want at my pace, in my way, when the weather is decent, and my body will last longer for it.  Not saying this is what you should do, just sharing my personal experience. If you decide to make a change, meet as many people in the field as you can and see how they are faring.  If they have all had back surgery, neck surgery, or are otherwise unhealthy, you should probably look elsewhere. Work culture in the trades is just as important as at the office. Some companies are probably fine, where as others are covered up in substance abusers, wife abusers, co-worker abusers and just about everything else you can think of, make sure you pick the right one.         

Hummer

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2014, 04:04:50 PM »
Be careful about jumping out of your current field of employment. You might be throwing away future earnings really quickly. I work in electrical engineering and have made 10% raises every year for the last 4 years. I'm also interviewing at a new company for a supervisor position that would get me away from my desk and supervising an electrical crew. This new position also comes with a $20k raise. I would never have been able to get it before, it's only because of my last 4 years work experience that I'm considered for the position...

While retraining isn't a bad thing, you have to expect to start at the bottom of the heap again.

The comments about trying to find a field position in your area of study are what I would look into if I was you...

AnAmericanAbroad

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2014, 06:25:23 PM »
I haven't (though I have plans to go from being a lawyer to being a climbing guide), but I had some HVAC guys over my house not long ago, really friendly, older guys.  Got to talking about their job with them -- they both LOVED their job and said they had no plans to retire, but rather planned to work until they dropped dead.  Pretty cool.  Wish we all could find our calling in that way.

Not trying to derail the thread or anything, but are you making moves to do that dude? My very rough FIRE plan has me working as a climbing guide, but I haven't made any moves to get certified or anything. All I do now is get out and climb.

frugal_c

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2014, 07:03:35 PM »
I do know somebody who did what you are suggesting (different trade though) and it seemed to work out.  In his case, it was kind of a pre-retirement thing.   He quit his job, took 6 months to re-train, got the trade job and worked it for about 5 years before retiring.  It sure doesn't sound like he regretted it.

If you can really make your wage or higher after a year then from that angle it's kind of a no-brainer.   If you have organization skills you could start your own company and really be set.   

The only thing is, do you enjoy doing this type of work and have you ever done plumbing/electrical?

Terrestrial

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2014, 07:20:41 PM »
Hmm I'd watch out if you're married...alot of people describing their EX husbands doing similar things.  j/k.

AccidentalMiser

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Re: Anyone here transition from white collar to the skilled trades?
« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2014, 02:40:13 PM »
I have considered doing this many times, family commitments prevented me from doing so when I was younger and now I'm older and have reached the relative pinnacle of my career with commensurate salary.

If I could have escaped to become a plumber or brick layer, I would have done so.  I've also dreamed of becoming a trim carpenter, luthier or a motorcycle mechanic.

It is entirely possible that I will go and become a machinist or an electrician after I retire in a few years.

There is a book I'd like to recommend named "Shop Class as Soulcraft"; it's about a man's search for meaning through manual work.